- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 6, 2007

Amnesty for a dictator like Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe would be bitter medicine. But if it’s needed to pry this 83-year-old thug from power, then Morgan Tsvangirai is willing to discuss it. Mr. Tsvangirai, the heroic Zimbabwean opposition leader, proposed immunity from prosecution in an article on the opposite page Friday. The proposal can’t be dismissed out of hand when it comes from Mr. Tsvangirai, whose consistent and scathing rebuke of this brutal regime has meant constant risk to life and limb.

Mugabe thugs all but brained him at an anti-Mugabe pray-in. His skull was fractured; he spent a week in the hospital. That was on March 11. Not three weeks later, the police entered his offices once more to arrest him, hours before a speech on Mugabe criminal misrule. Any form of amnesty for this tyrant would rightly be controversial. The man heads one of the worst tyrannies on the planet. “Operation Clear the Trash” two years ago is but one horrible example of his disastrous misrule. He bulldozed entire towns and cities, making refugees of an estimated 1.5 million people. These towns were reckoned “illegal.” Many just happened to be strongholds of the opposition. This is a country where annual inflation reaches four figures and potatoes are a “strategic crop” because mass starvation is near.

If not a comfort, or at all just, other nations have found a beginning to recovery when they grant immunity to a dictator and his cronies. The opposite trend is emerging of late in several once-tyrannized African and Latin American nations. The Liberian warlord Charles Taylor was arrested last year in Nigeria and goes on trial next month at The Hague. The late Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet did not escape trial despite amnesty. The Pol Pot treatment, in which a monster lives out his days in remote anonymity, is becoming a thing of the past. As Mr. Tsvangirai put it: “These are dangerous times for dictators.” Amnesty would be a “Catch-22,” he rightly says, but is perhaps one worth considering.

Without it, Robert Mugabe will cling to power until he dies. He can only figure that a jail cell or worse awaits him after removal. He has too many enemies to expect otherwise. Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute sums up persuasively the argument for amnesty: “Mugabe is one odious man, and he should be in jail, but his country is far more important than him. If he steps down peacefully and as a quid pro quo has a luxurious lifestyle in exile, so be it.” In the end the decision belongs to Zimbabweans acting in defense of their country, which is far more important than what happens to one single thug.

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